Dear Diary,

It’s the one year anniversary of losing my six-figure job. One year since I was told things were not working out. One year since I heard, “Friday will be your last day.” One year since the financial security rug was pulled out from under me.

I have to begin by saying I’m still incredibly bitter about it, even though I don’t want to be. And because I signed things that said I wouldn’t, I can’t go into details. Suffice it to say I was shocked, my former colleagues were shocked, my current colleagues were shocked. The two men who ended my career immediately disconnected from me on LinkedIn. Was there something wrong in the village? Absolutely.

But the end result is the same. I’m still unemployed. I’m paying for private insurance. I have applied for over 500 positions in the past year—jobs I’m qualified for, jobs I’m overqualified for, jobs that are completely unrelated to the 20+year career I built, entry-level positions. If it’s out there, I probably applied for it. And you know what I heard in response?

Crickets.

Serious crickets. No responses, no interviews. Nada. It seems the tech world no longer needs 50-something women who have recently been canned. That kind of aligns with the world in general if you really think about it. Women begin to become invisible at 50-ish.

Around job application 300, I began to lose hope; began to imagine something different for my future. But it’s a challenging proposition when your life has already been redefined in so many ways. Five years prior, I’d come out as gay and ended my 25-year marriage. Two years prior, I’d lost my beloved mom, my uncle, and my cousin. Less than one year prior, I’d lost my only sister to glioblastoma. My world was spinning out of control, and my career was the one thing anchoring me to something solid. Until it wasn’t. So, imaging something different made sense in that whirlwind of chaos, but it also felt impossibly hard.

Losing a job—especially one you thought you were in for the long haul—conjures up the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Most of us know that those five stages don’t happen linearly. Sometimes they even happen all at once.

When my ex-boss logged into our regularly scheduled Zoom meeting, told me all about his upcoming family vacation to Hawaii, and then promptly fired me, I felt the floor drop out from underneath. I was free-falling, spinning, devastated, fearful, and nauseated. My six-figure salary would end in two weeks, and I would be left with no income, no insurance, and the very worst unemployment benefits possible—incredibly low pay for a ridiculously short amount of time. (Thanks, Florida.)

I immediately wrote a letter to human resources outlining all the efforts I had made to turn a stagnant situation around, to document the two-boss change I’d had in less than two years, to explain how I’d bent over backwards to try and meet the expectations and challenges presented by two co-founders who micro-managed everything and greenlighted nothing. This was my fruitless stage of bargaining.

The depression stage lasted much longer. I had recently defined myself as a queer woman with adult children, trying to resurrect a career that had been put on the back-burner for the sake of my ex-husband’s career, and I was starting from zero. As my biweekly paychecks hit my bank account, I paid off as much divorce debt as I possibly could, thinking the savings would come after. But there would be no after, and I was once again broke.

Julie, in her ever-supportive, ever-lovely way said, “This is a sign. You’re supposed to be writing, not pandering to tech bros. You’re supposed to put your own words out into the world, not someone else’s. Now is the time for you to do it. I’ll take care of the rest.”

And she has. Faithfully.

It’s a hard, uncomfortable position to be in. I’m not used to taking, to asking for help, to being so dependent on someone else. It’s a horrible feeling to go from a six-figure salary to asking if shampoo is in the budget for the week. It’s an upending, a roller coaster that’s gone off the tracks.

And of course, there is an identity crisis. Who am I? Who was I? Who was I trying to be? Who am I going to be now? I’ll admit, there was a certain amount of pride I took in talking about my corporate job and my corporate salary. But it was killing me bit by bit. It was eating my soul. Julie was right about that.

So, here I am writing my days away now. Essays, books, newsletters, queries. I’m losing myself in the literary life, and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. But there is also guilt because I’m not contributing financially to our shared life. There is even more guilt when I’m undergoing surgeries I can’t pay for and taking medications I can’t afford. But this is what we agreed to, and I am eternally grateful for the time I’ve been given to make a name for myself in the world of words. Vincent van Gogh, Picasso, and Harper Lee were all supported by literary benefactors. Perhaps I’ll pay Julie back by writing something earth shattering or red-carpet inducing. 

With every encouragement, every essay acceptance, every agent who asks for more, I’m entering the stage of acceptance. Acceptance that what once was is over. I’m no longer “in charge of marketing content for a high-powered startup,” I’m “a writer,” in charge of my own words. And someday, I’ll be the breadwinner again, but on my own terms.

It’s a beautiful new beginning.

Love,

Katrina

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2 Responses

  1. Love how this ended!! YAY!!! Now stop feeling guilty for accepting support so that you can focus on your art. Guilt is a TOTAL waste of energy. Put that energy into writing and reading and querying!! You’ve been given the gift of focusing entirely on your art. Just be grateful.
    Love you to the moon.
    DP
    PS – I’ve been dreaming about being a full time writer too…but I’m not willing to give up my dream of having my own home. Hopefully I’ll have a couple of VERY good years doing this real estate gig and can get it done.

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